Restricted Access Section


WP5 Description of work


Task 5.1: Project web site

Creation of a project-based web site and development of links with existing web sites and electronic networks to allow rapid exchange of information and ideas to researchers and end-users. The website will be used to publish, each 6 months, information newsletters that will provide up-to-date information on the scientific results emerging from the project, their policy relevance, and how they can be used and adapted to other mountain regions of the world. The ACQWA home page will be advertised on the websites of other relevant EU projects, academic institutions, governmental agencies and NGOs in order to ensure a maximum of visibility of, and information flow from, the ACQWA project.

Task 5.2: Workshop organization

Organisation of ACQWA-sponsored workshops for scientists working on climate change and water in general or participating in the project in particular. In addition, organisation of ACQWA-sponsored sessions at international conferences such as EGU, AGU or IAHS. Organisation of a final workshop involving scientists, stakeholders and other end-users involved in or bounded by the problems addressed by ACQWA (e.g., architects, engineers, experts on energy-savings in constructions, environmental lawyers, etc). Individual partners will be expected to organize general-public conferences to raise public awareness to local, regional and Europe-wide issues of water in vulnerable mountain regions. A general-public event will be organized towards the end of the project, with stakeholder involvement.

Task 5.3: Young scientist mobility programme

Exchange scholarships for PhD students and post-docs working within the network. Some seed money will be made available in order to enable young scientists to spend a sho rt period in another partner institution. A small committee will be set up to evaluate the requests for entering into the mobility programme that will be advertised once a year.

Task 5.4: Dissemination to policymakers

This task will be devoted to the following points:

- A final report providing the essential details of the ACQWA Project results, a discussion of the methodologies and models used, and the possibilities and limits of applications of ACQWA developments to other mountain regions of the world. It is important that the momentum generated during the five years of the project be put to good use to other regions facing similar resource problems and vulnerabilities.

- A summary for policymakers: this document is similar in its concept to the philosophy developed by the IPCC to condense the information contained in the detailed reports. The ACQWA summary for policymakers will provide a short comprehensive overview of the most important conclusions of the ACQWA Project and the policy-relevant issues and solutions. The document will be circulated via the ACQWA policy+stakeholder interface (see the next point below).

- An important step in the transfer of research results to adaptation/policy will be the development of an ACQWA policy+stakeholder interface. While the project will complete its work with targeted stakeholder workshops in order to disseminate its findings to relevant communities (hydropower authorities, agriculture and forestry, etc.), it would be appropriate to set up a working group in collaboration with the European Commission. This working group would typically comprise 10-15 persons working at the EU policy level and within governmental (e.g., environment ministries and/or water management authorities) and supra-national bodies (e.g., CIPRA, International Rhine Commission and similar organization). The policy working group will be updated on ACQWA results at regular intervals, both using Internet facilities and through targeted meetings. By creating this “interface”, it is expected that the policy-relevant information will reach the appropriate targets in the most rapid and efficient manner.

Other potential spin-offs from this Work Package

- Creation of an interuniversity alpine network (Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany and Austria) for delivering courses (either as part of an existing Masters Program or in the form of a summer school) on issues specific to the ACQWA project, in particular the methodological developments and modelling techniques. Such an international course could become a model for other consortium members and other sets of countries (e.g, trans-boundary Andean university partnerships on water issues).

- Production of a booklet for students for all the ages about climatic change in mountains and key water issues to de distributed in schools of regions concerned by these problems (including a teacher’s manual)

- These spin-offs would not be part of formal ACQWA deliverables but are destined to be follow-on products that will go beyond the duration of the project.


WP5 Objectives

This work package will contribute to improving the dissemination of results within the project as well as towards decision takers and policy makers. WP5 also aims at providing readilyaccessible information to the general public and for schools.


WP4 Description of work

Task 4.1: Impacts on natural environmental systems

Subtask 4.1.1: Running water ecosystems

University of Geneva, Switzerland [E. Castella, A. Lehmann]; University of Birmingham, UK [D. Hannah, A. Milner]

In mountain regions, climatic change is likely to alter the balance between water sources (rain, ice-melt, snowmelt, groundwater) - particularly modifying the amount and duration of snow cover and the magnitude and timing of peak ice-melt (Melack et al., 1997; Brown et al., 2005). Decreasing groundwater recharge and elevated water temperature could lead to disruption of flow permanency and to an increase of temporary stream stretches. In turn, modifications in primary determinants of the composition and diversity of the biota in mountain running waters can be expected (Brittain & Milner, 2001; Milner et al., 2001; Castella et al., 2001). In a changing climate with altered water source contributions, organisms are vulnerable and to avoid becoming extinct, they must either adapt physiologically and/or genetically, or migrate to more suitable habitats. As a result, invertebrate biodiversity is most likely to be affected through changes in species distribution. It remains to be investigated how reservoir management could be adapted to mitigate adverse changes in the parts of the catchments under their influence.

Despite the likelihood of such marked hydrological changes as snow packs and glaciers shrink (Barnett et al., 2005; Brown et al., 2007) our knowledge of how alpine aquatic ecosystems will respond is limited, regardless of the widely accepted importance of protecting freshwater ecosystem biodiversity (Ward and Tockner, 2001). To be successful, alpine river conservation strategies must be underpinned by a holistic understanding of the cascade of environmental processes, which ultimately determine biotic communities (Malard et al., 2006) as well as their response to future climate change and variability (Hannah et al., 2007).

Subtask 4.1.2: Mountain lake ecosystems

Alpine Wildlife Research Centre, Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy (A. von Hardenberg); Istituto per le Scienze dell’Atmosfera e del Clima (ISAC-CNR), Italy (A. Provenzale)

High-altitude alpine lakes are endangered ecosystems that are particularly sensitive to climate change (Skjelkvaele and Wright, 1998). Expected changes with a likely impact on ecosystems include ph shifts (Koenig et al. 1998), increased penetration of ultraviolet radiation due to decreased dissolved organic carbon and habitat reduction for cold stenothermic organisms due to warming (Schindler, 2001). In the Gran Paradiso National Park, 14 high altitude alpine lakes have been thoroughly monitored in 2006 and will be monitored again in 2007. The data collection program aims at estimating biodiversity indices and densities of zooplankton, zoo-benthos, nektonic macro-invertebrates, and amphibian and fish populations in these lakes.

The objectives of this ST are:

  • To use data on physical parameters and benthic communities to develop models of high-altitude alpine lakes including the interaction between the biotic and abiotic components. One class of models will be based on deterministic equations for a multi-compartment ecosystem, coupled with simplified equations for the physical lake dynamics. The parameters and some of the functional forms of the interaction terms in these models will be directly estimated from the analysis of available data. A second type of models will be obtained from empirical fits to the data, and will include a significant stochastic component. Mixed deterministic-empirical models will also be developed.
  • To use the generated models to understand and reproduce the similarities and differences between lake ecosystems (e.g., in terms of biodiversity, total biomass, connectivity) and to estimate alpine lake sensitivity to changes in physical parameters. The model inferences will be validated through a field campaign conducted during the project.
  • To use data and model outputs to upscale the sensitivity of alpine lakes to environmental parameter variations and to assess the response of this type of aquatic ecosystems to different climate change scenarios. The blend of data analysis and model simulations will be used to identify the taxa that are best suitable as indicator species of potential biodiversity loss in high altitude lakes due to climatic change and to identify the most endangered components of high altitude lakes.

Task 4.2: Impacts on socio-economic systems

Subtask 4.2.1: Hydropower

CVA, Val D’Aosta, Italy [S. Juglair, E. Pucci]; CESI Ricerca, Italy [S. Maran]; ENEL, Italy [G. Galeati]; CUEPE, Univ. of Geneva, Switzerland [F. Romerio]

The project focus on the snow and ice dominated mountain areas and the detailed modelling of the snow and ice processes allows to carry out a detailed analysis of the impact of CC on hydropower systems. This ST will benefit of the simulation results from T 3.2 and ST 3.3.2, that will provide the streamflow regime in the future climate for the investigated pilot case studies, Rhone and Po.

The impact analysis will focus on the simulation of various operational scenarios of reservoir management, particularly addressing on the one hand the security of the electricity supply and, on the other hand, secondary targets such as flood protection, water supply or irrigation. These simulations will highlight the expected changes in terms of operational strategies as dictated by the modification of the temporal availability of melt-water. In addition, they will be combined with scenarios of future evolution of energy demand, which will be defined by means of both hypothetical scenarios or through specific targets simulated by energy demand models, which accounts for projections of population and economic growth and the evolution of the regulatory framework shaping trans-boundary energy trading.

The results of the impact analysis will be used to discuss how the consequences of the impact analysis will lead to an effective planning of capital investment in order to adapt hydropower systems to future water resources availability and to CC induced changes in the demand structure.

Additional investigations will address the impact on the hydropower sector arising by the need to cope with increased silting of reservoirs, as a consequence of the increase of denudated areas which are exposed to erosion because of glacier retreat; and the likely increased need for environmental flow requirements downstream of dams, as a consequence of the higher frequency of prolonged low flow periods and droughts.

These investigations will be carried out by means of a prototype of integrated model, which will be developed to estimate quantitatively the impact of the changes occurring in the physical system on the production and management. The application and demonstration of this model will be performed at the pilot sites and power plants both in the Rhone and Po river basins. The extension of the impact analysis to the regional and basin scale will be achieved by regionalization of the results from the reference case studies on the basis of hydropower plant size and of the magnitude of the changes of the streamflow regime, which will be available in a spatially explicit form over the entire river basin.

Subtask 4.2.2: Impacts of climatic and land use changes in water availability and management in the Mediterranean Mountains: The case of the Aragón river basin, Pyrenees.

Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, Spanish Research Council. Zaragoza, Spain. [J. I. Lopez, J. M. García-Ruiz, C. Martí-Bono, S. Beguería, S. M. Vicente-Serrano]

South-facing slopes of the Pyrenees play a major role in the hydrology and water resources availability of the Ebro river basin. Pyrenean headwaters cover only a 12% of the surface of the Ebro valley, but they generate 46.2% of the total runoff. However, the evolution of climate and land cover during the last decades disturbed the water balance of the region leading to important decreases in runoff generation (Beguería et al. 2003). Land cover changes during the 20th century are mainly characterised by a farmland abandonment in the hill slopes, and the increasing competence for the space in the valley bottom due to reservoir construction, tourism facilities and the need of meadows to feed the livestock in winter. Farmland abandonment that on average affected to 22% of the territory resulted in a expansion of dense shrubs and forests (nowadays the 64% of the surface of abandoned farmlands are forests in different stages of development and a 28% are covered by shrub).

Climate and land use scenarios suggest the continuity and even an acceleration of the adverse conditions for runoff generation. Thus, the role of the Pyrenees as repository of water to the lowlands is becoming seriously threatened for the 21st century.

This ST will contribute to the project with the following research activities:

  • To analyse the effect of land cover and climate variability on the hydrology of the Pyrenees. For this purpose hydrological information from experimental plots, four monitored experimental basins with different vegetal cover, a dense network of gauging stations, and a recently obtained dense network of homogeneous and long-term climatic records (20th century) are already available. Information from experimental plots and experimental basins will allow to isolate the effect of land use and vegetation change on water quality and quantity (sediment transport, total runoff, response to rainfall events, depletion curves, etc.). All the sites are very close in distance, with practically equal climatic conditions and geological substrate. For this reason, differences in the hydrological behaviour of the different locations are linked to the contrasted land cover of each site, which reflects different conditions from the traditional agriculture and abandoned farmlands to dense forest. On the other hand the availability of long and homogeneous climatic and hydrologic series will permit to detect changes in runoff coefficients at basin scale. From such changes, it will be possible to infer valuable information about the role of the significant alterations that have occurred in land use and vegetation cover (deforestation/aforestation) on the hydrology of Pyrenean headwaters.
  • Hydrological modelling (SWAT model and modelling tools developed by T 3.2) of the Upper Aragón river basin (2,181 km2). The study case is appropriate for the goal of the project since it has been subjected to large land use changes, is highly dependent on snow melting discharges, and it drains to the Yesa reservoir which supply water to new irrigated areas (actually: 60,700ha, projected: 88,000 ha) and will provide water to Zaragoza city (700,000 inhabitants). Models will be run for different land-use and climatic (downscaled RCMs as developed in ST 3.1.2 and from the PRUDENCE dataset) scenarios in order to assess the impact of environmental change on water availability and management in the region (simulation of different levels of aforestation in the 22% of the area composed by abandoned farmlands, simulation of the effect of the replacement of introduced species, mainly Pinus sylvestris, by native vegetation, such as Quercus pirenaica, and simulation of an rising timberline as consequence of the reduction of grazing activities and climate warming).

The proposed WP fits closely within the scope of the project. It tackles the analysis of the environmental change impact on the hydrology of a vulnerable mountainous region where water is a main issue for the economical development of the lowlands of NE Spain, a large and highly populated region. The experience of the Pyrenees will increase the geographical frame of the Project which enables a better understanding of the impact of climate change on mountainous areas. Moreover, analysis carried by ST 4.2.2 will add to the Project valuable information about the interaction between climate and plant cover changes on water resources availability. The latter is widely recognised as a very important factor for the hydrology at a basin scale, but very often it is marginally considered in comparison with climatic forcings. At the same time, this WP will be benefited with the availability of new modelling tools developed within the Project and the experience supplied by the other participants.

Subtask 4.2.3: Agriculture

Agroscope ART, Zurich, Switzerland [J. Fuhrer]

Agriculture in mountain regions produces different commodities and provides additional non-monetary services that are fundamental to support the local population (Bätzing, 1996) and to protect natural resources such as biodiversity (Cernusca et al., 1999). These services rely largely on financial inputs from other sectors, mainly from tourism, and/or government subsidies. With decreasing support and stronger market pressures due less protectionism, high production costs become critical and thus agriculture in many mountain regions is increasingly vulnerable to environmental constraints. The aim of this subtask is to evaluate direct and indirect consequences of climatic change in combination with shifting pressures from the political, social and economic environment.

Agriculture is a crucial sector for mountain economies, and any mountain policy explicitly addresses agricultural issues. The recommendations elaborated for actions in agriculture related to climate change and, in particular, to water in the selected test regions will be generalized to be applicable to other mountain regions of Europe. They will then be placed in the context of the current European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and of national and regional sectorial policies for the respective regions. The aim is to identify key policy aspects needed in the future to support agricultural structures in a multifunctional mountain landscape under changed climatic and hydrologic conditions.

The following issues will be addressed in the present subtask:

  • Drought sensitivity will be assessed by statistical analysis of historical hydrological data for the selected catchments in relation to records of land cover, land use and agricultural activities; archived data and outputs from hydrological models (T 3.2) driven with historical data (T 2.2) will be used; drought sensitivity and critical conditions will be derived from the resulting relationships between climatic and agricultural indices..
  • Drought risks for different combinations of land use and soil types will be evaluated on the basis of probability distributions of indices derived under pt. 1 for selected catchments using current and projected future climatic conditions from downscaled RCM outputs (ST 3.1.2) and soil moisture scenarios from T 3.2. and ST 3.3.4.
  • Phenology-dependent water demands for different agricultural commodities will be calculated based on a per unit yield or available energy for crop and forage production and animal consumption using models for crops (CropSyst, Stoeckle et al. 2003; Torriani et al. 2007) and pastures (PaSim, Riedo et al. 1998) driven with downscaled outputs from RCM runs (ST 3.1.2) and projections of soil moisture from distributed hydrological models (T 3.2 and ST 3.3.4); current and future conditions will be compared and region-specific recommendations for improved water storage and use, soil water retention and soil protection to mitigate climate change impacts will be elaborated.

Subtask 4.2.4. Impacts on mountain forests

Forest Ecology, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland [A. Wolf, H. Bugmann]

This subtask does not intend to model the drivers of land use changes, but rather to assess the relative importance of LUCC compared to changes in climate with respect to forest structure and composition and for the carbon and water budgets of selected catchments. Accordingly, we will investigate the impacts of a changing water supply on forest ecosystems in European mountain areas. To this purpose, we will use a modified version of the biogeochemical ecosystem model LPJ-GUESS (Smith et al. 2001) to predict changes in forest structure, composition and on the fluxes of water and carbon as a consequence of changing climatic conditions and hence of water supply. The model has been successfully applied for a variety of studies, both in Europe and worldwide and can therefore be easily adapted for any mountain region in Europe. Furthermore, we will apply LandClim (Schumacher and Bugmann, 2006), a model specifically developed to assess the relative importance of climatic effects (drought), wildfires and management, including changes in forest cover, for future forest landscape dynamics. LandClim has been applied for forests in the European Alps as well as in the Rocky Mountains; in an ongoing, parallel project, its applicability is expanded to Mediterranean forests. Hence we expect that also this model will have a wide range of applicability in the context of the ACQWA project. To drive the models, we will use climate scenarios from ST 3.1.1and 3.1.2 and – concerning soil moisture – from T 3.2 and ST 3.3.4. To assess the importance of land use and land cover changes, including afforestation/deforestation, scenarios based on the EU FP6 project “ALARM” and the FP5 project “ATEAM”, in which this group has been involved in the past, will be used. We will supply information on forest productivity, fire probabilities and associated losses in forest productivity.

We will focus on the following key issues:

- sensitivities and critical conditions (i.e., quantitative sensitivity indicator for drought) for forest ecosystems, namely:

  • How drought conditions increase mortality of forest tree species
  • How drought conditions influenced productivity and forest structure.

- In addition, Subtask 4.2.4 will assess future climatic change (mainly droughts, i.e. focus on extreme events rather than averages) and its influence on forest structure and composition under different scenarios of climate (ST 3.1.1) and land use. How does this influence the capacity of forests with respect to protection and productivity (feedback to WP2)?
- How do changes in climate (mainly water supply) interact with changes in fire frequency and management changes (link to EU FP6 project “ALARM”)?
- Predict changes in availability of economically important forest products in mountain regions as basis for T 4.3.
- What are the consequences of afforestation/deforestation for the water budget of catchments (link to Swiss NCCR Climate project EcoHydro) focusing on

  • Consideration of different time scales and consequently spatial scales (e.g. short-time, local climate, longer time catchment water balance)
  • Effects of different management regimes.

In this respect, recent work done by the consortium members has shown the potential of distributed modelling for estimating the effects of land use changes and forest damage due to wind storms and general deforestation due to hypothetical climate change scnearios on peak flows magnitude and timing, as well as on hillslope erosion patterns and basin sediment yield (Rosso and Burlando, 1999; Kuntner and Burlando, 2003; Burlando and Kirsch, 2005; Molnar et al., 2006; Kirsch et al, 2007). Accordingly, the hydrological models implemented to address Task 3.2, which will be interfaced with the biosphere model of Subtask 3.3.5, will be the basis for the analysis of the impact of CC induced afforestation and deforestation scenarios as predicted by the EU-FP6 “ALARM” and EU-FP5 “ATEAM” projects.

Subtask 4.2.5: Tourism

HEID, Geneva, Switzerland [E. Wiegandt]; MonterosaStar Srl, Macugnaga (Verbania), Italy [Luigi Corsi]

Tourism in mountain regions constitutes a major economic sector in developed countries with large areas of high altitude territory and is a potential source of growth for mountainous developing regions (ex. Central Asia and South America). The greatest direct climate impacts for mountain tourism are expected be on winter tourism and these effects will vary primarily according to altitude. Given temperature and precipitation predictions, Switzerland appears the relatively insensitive to changes in snow cover, given the number of high altitude resorts (OECD 2007). Regional differences are nevertheless significant and will produce "winners and losers" not only in Switzerland but throughout Europe and beyond. Moreover, other consequences of climate change such as changing natural hazards will affect tourism. Given that tourism often results in more extensive and intensive use of territory, more intense and/or more frequent catastrophic events could have significant negative consequences. Furthermore, climate impacts must be evaluated in terms of their interaction with socio-economic factors influencing tourist behaviour. The goal is to develop a methodology to examine the interactions between climate and social factors as they affect mountain tourism. This project will validate a general analysis of impacts on tourism using mostly regional Alpine (Swiss) data because these are plentiful and reliable. The framework can then be applied to other regions to highlight the relative importance of different key components, thereby identifying particular vulnerabilities and potential policy and institutional mechanisms to address emerging problems. Focus will be on key issues:

  • Identification of Alpine regions of the Rhône Valley able to maintain winter tourism activities under predicted temperature and precipitation conditions and those which will no longer be viable with current infrastructure (Abegg, 1996, provides a starting point for these investigations). Sample question of general relevance for all regions: is a particular season-length based on minimal snow cover a critical consideration?
  • Identification of future water demands of the tourism sector based on projections derived from (1), including estimations of water use related to personal tourist consumption plus projections of artificial snow use derived from climate predictions. Parallel evaluation of demands predicted from other sectors, including household use (permanent residents), hydroelectricity, and agriculture (from ST 4.2.3) and using model results from T 2.4 to obtain overall water demand.
  • Analysis of potential shortages/deficits based on the above and results of hydrological models predicting supply, generated by T 3.2.
  • Identification of new vulnerabilities due to natural hazards, incorporating results from T 3.4.3.
  • Specification of criteria influencing tourist choice of venue in order to evaluate relative importance of snow versus other characteristics for choice of vacation location. Data will be obtained through analysis of historic/current tourism patterns, complimented by interviews.
  • Comparative assessment of water demand and economic return of key economic sectors in mountain regions in order to undertake comparative cost/benefit analysis of adaptation strategies to guarantee adequate water supply to maintain tourism relative to measures to foster hydroelectricity production or preserve mountain agriculture. Results from the Swiss case will identify key factors to maintain viable mountain tourism which can be used as guides for policy makers seeking to provide incentives or elaborate criteria for tourist development projects.

Task 4.3: Policy response and adaptation

Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEID), Geneva, Switzerland [U. Luterbacher, E. Wiegandt]; Columbia University Consortium for Risk Management [G. Chichilnisky and P. Eisenberger]; Instituto Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires , Argentina [T. di Tella, S. Orsini, D. Perczyk]; Institute of Water Problems and Hydropower, Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciences, Bishkek Kyrgyzstan [D. Mamatkanov, O., G. Shalpykova and other co-workers]

UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, Univ. of Dundee [A.Rieuclarke, A. Allan]

Climate change will likely modify seasonal and overall water availability and, as a result, there will be increased competition for water. This Work Package has two interrelated goals:

  • Overall assessment of changes in water availability based on integrated results of WP 2.4 (integrated modelling of socio-economic drivers) and focused impact studies (ST 4.1-4.2.4) and of hydrological studies (T 3.2) through an evaluation of the respective vulnerabilities of sectors within the system
  • Presentation of different policy options and analysis of their respective costs and benefits to individual sectors and to the society as a whole, applied to different regions. Developed, stable systems (Alps) will be compared to developing and institutionally more fragile areas (Central Asia, Andes). To design effective policies the inputs from the natural science analyses are important nevertheless risks of unexpected or catastrophic events cannot be eliminated. Policies for the design of institutions that enhance collective well being will help lessen the negative impacts of climate change and resulting disturbances of the hydrological cycle.
  • Costs to sectors and to society are defined in terms of specific discount rate assumptions and the 1% of GDP mitigation benchmark figure adopted, for example in the Stern Review in 2006 and which still be modified upon by the Columbia group; discount rate problems discussed in Chichilnisky (1997) and Chichilinisky and Heal (1993, 1996) which have shown that different kinds of discount rates should be assessed for collective gods such as the environment as opposed to private goods Research conducted by Chichilnisky, and the Columbia group will permit evaluation of whether the costs minus benefits of climate change under specific discount rate analysis exceed the 1% of GDP of the regions (or a revised figure), or not. If net costs are larger than 1% of GDP of the region, it is worth undertaking mitigation under standard cost benefit conditions. These are fundamental political decisions and will affect how water would be distributed among sectors as well as other policy measures to be explored through scenarios. The following considerations underlie scenario construction and will permit comparative policy analysis:
  • In the European Alpine region, well-defined institutional structures supported by stable states have regulatory frameworks to assure water distribution among sectors and groups. Climate change and parallel socio-economic changes will test the resiliency of these policies and may increase tensions among groups in the European Alps but it is expected that the robust institutional structure has a high potential for adaptation. In the case of Central Asia, a relatively undeveloped region with an unstable political system, water allocation is currently a problem that will only be aggravated by climate change. Our analysis will identify factors that may facilitate adaptation, given the Alpine experience, and evaluate their applicability to the more fragile institutional situation of Central Asia and the Andes, where the situation is more solid than in Central Asia but where important social and political instabilities are still present within important countries such as Chile (Aconcagua basin) and Argentina (Cuyo basin). In these two latter cases, strong competition for water use between agricultural, industrial hydropower and household sectors might develop with climate change.
  • The European Alps are near capacity in mobilizing water for energy use but this is not the case in Central Asia and the Andes, which have great unused potential in the use of water resources for electric power. Preliminary analyses of the Kyrgyz region have shown that these unused potentials can ultimately benefit the whole of Central Asia and contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The same might be possible in the Andes.
  • Having assessed the policy choices; we then look at the legal environment in which such policies are implemented. This would involve an analysis of the applicable law relating to integrated water resources management. In Europe this would include an analysis of the EU Water Framework Directive, the 92 UN ECE Helsinki Convention, as well as various national and provincial/ local legislation. The aim would be to identify the key legal elements that enhance a state’s/ region’s ability to adapt to climate change. The work in Central Asia would therefore be to assess whether these legal elements exist, and where there are gaps, the options for legal reform.

The elaboration of the integrated assessment model and the design of scenarios based on above assumptions will provide the following deliverables:

  1. An integrated model linking regulations for water allocation to its actual distribution among sectors. It will include not only climate factors as but also the influence of market forces and political conditions, giving a comprehensive picture of water availability.
  2. 1The basic model design is based upon sub-models of rural and industrial sectors present together in different but adjacent regions. The two regions interact but they are formulated separately to permit identification of the different effects of environmental changes in each area. Both are described by a general structure that includes four main sectors: (a) Population, (b) Economy and Resources, including trade, a financial system, and industry (c) Cultural organization, and (d) Government.
  3. Scenarios to explore particular vulnerabilities of high mountain areas and competitive aspects of water use among different sectors and regions. The impact of specific incentive structures modifying land use patterns will be modeled and analyzed. This includes the study of the impact of different revenue streams arising from different uses of the available land: eg if much more revenue can be generated from tourism more agricultural and herding land will be use for it, the same reasoning can be applied to other economic sectors. Gaps in water supply resulting from competing sectors will be identified, e.g. for agriculture it will be possible to define the amount needed in each month of the year (from ST 4.2.3), The same will be done with tourism and hydropower, permitting calculations of total water demands and comparison with availability. This supposes again coordination with ST 4.2.3 (agriculture) and ST 4.2.1 (Economic aspects of hydropower). This provides likelihoods for the size and timing of water gaps.
  4. Analyses of the effects and economic cost under specific discount rate assumptions of the consequences of climate change on present water use patterns for the different types of economic activities enumerated under T 4.2.
  5. Evaluation the costs and benefits of water allocation schemes for different sectors and different regions enumerated under T 4.2
  6. Scenarios exploring different policy options at local and regional levels (taking into account trans-boundary water agreements) to reduce water deficits within sectors and to equitably and efficiently distribute water among users and sectors.
  7. Comparisons between European and non-European mountain regions (Central Asia, Argentine and Chilean Andes) to determine whether or not production technologies, consumption patterns, and regulatory frameworks developed in Europe i.e., a methodology to compare European and non-European mountainous region’s legal frameworks in terms of adaptability to climate change. We will determine if the acceptable level of equity and efficiency achieved in Europe can be successfully adapted elsewhere.

Evaluations of conditions necessary to tap potential from unused hydropower and of the extent to which such developments could contribute to meeting greenhouse gas mitigation goals and fit into the CDM Kyoto system as well as to lowering regional tensions, or, conversely, what factors might aggravate them. Again coordination with ST 4.2.1 is indispensable here. This latter aspect will lead to policy recommendations for how various asymmetries between regions might be corrected while also contributing to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.


WP4 Objectives

The objectives of this WP are:

1. assessing the impacts of climatic change on hydropower systems by applying ice and snow melt models coupled with hydrological models, using climate-model data generated in the ACQWA project (see WP2 and WP3).

2. water availability: modification of the annual runoff volumes and of the hydrologic regimes (duration curves) of the alpine basins

3. hydropower availability: analysis of the potential impacts of changing climatic conditions on the operational performance of hydropower systems

4. evaluation of the pertinence and effectiveness of modelling methods in water resources management for hydropower targets in alpine regions. End-users will play a key role leading to the definition of model approaches for economic and operational sustainability of reservoir management in the future.

5. at the scale of the Rhône, Po and some Pyrenees catchments, to model and predict the potential impacts of climatic changes on river invertebrate diversity. This will be based upon i) outputs from the climate and hydrological models (WP2), ii) existing data from Switzerland and Pyrenees and iii) the GRASP modelling approach (Lehmann et al., 2002a,b).

6. to sample stream invertebrate communities and habitat parameters in a set of alpine streams in order to validate outputs from predictive models. Sites in the Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees where data were gathered 10 years ago under a previous EU project (Milner et al., 2001, Hannah et al. 2007) represent valuable test sites.

7. to identify changes in environmental variables leading to high potential impacts on biodiversity, including rare and endemic species, in studied regions in order to upscale to other vulnerable alpine river systems.

8. mean winter air temperature and water availability: investigation about the possibilities for future artificial snow making conditions according to climatic changes.

9. snow precipitation and snow cover duration: investigation about the possibilities for practising alpine and cross-country skiing at different altitudes, according to future climatic conditions.

10. To determine the water requirement in agriculture, and implications of increasing drought risks for agricultural production.



WP3 Description of work

Task 3.1: Simulations of climate scenarios (regional scale)

Subtask 3.1.1: Regional Climate Model Simulations

MPI Hamburg [S. Kotlarski, D. Jacob]; International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy [E. Coppola]; WEGCENTER, University of Graz [A. Gobiet]

The nested modelling approach of WP3 relies at the larger scale on RCMs simulations, which in ST 2.1.1 will provide basic information on expected climatic changes in the Alpine area at different regional spatial scales. Simulations will performed using two different regional climate models, namely “REMO” (Jacob, 2001) and the ICTP-RegCM3. Both models will cover the same simulation period and will simulate the same selection of the IPCC scenarios. At MPI several transient climate change simulations until 2100 at horizontal resolutions of 25 and 50 km with a model domain covering the entire European area (carried out within the European ENSEMBLES project) will be available the start of the project. These experiments will provide boundary conditions for dedicated REMO simulations for the Alpine area at a very high resolution of 10 x 10 km². For the central and northern part of the Alps such experiments are already available for the period 1950-2100 and for the SRES emission scenarios B1, A1B and A2. The new experiments will focus on the time horizon 1960-2050 and will include a novel and recently developed dynamic glacier scheme (Kotlarski, 2007), a unique feature of the RCM REMO. This scheme accounts for mountain glaciers on a subgrid and allows for an independent estimate of the future evolution of Alpine glaciers in addition to the forcing of dedicated mass balance models for individual glaciers or mesoscale river catchments by RCM data (ST 2.3.1 and T 2.2). In order to assess possible feedbacks of changing vegetation characteristics as a result of climatic changes, an additional REMO simulation will be carried out including a bi-directional coupling to the LPJ-GUESS biosphere model (see T 2.5). Investigation of feedback mechanisms related to changes in vegetation characteristics and their influence on the simulated climate change signal will be thus made possible.

The recently-upgraded ICTP-RegCM3 model will be used in parallel to REMO to generate multi-decadal simulations over the investigated domains with a horizontal grid size of 10-15 km. The initial simulation will focus on the Rhone and Po valley and will cover the period 1960-2050. Further simulations will include the other European regions and non-European mountain areas targeted by the project. Boundary conditions for the European simulations will be obtained from corresponding intermediate resolution experiments (Dx = 25-50 km) completed as part of other European projects, such as ENSEMBLES. A novel aspect of these simulations is that the RegCM will employ its capability of carrying out land surface calculations on a finer grid taking into account fine scale topography and land surface information. For ACQWA it is planned to carry out simulations using 1 km sub-grid surface calculations. These calculations will enable to bridge the scales between climate model information and input for hydrology calculations. At 1 km resolution Alpine lakes can be resolved, and a one dimensional lake model coupled to the RegCM3 system will be used to carry out the lake calculations.

Subtask 3.1.2 Local Scale Climate Information

WEGCENTER, University of Graz [A. Gobiet]; MPI Hamburg [S. Kotlarski, D. Jacob]; HWRM-ETHZ [P. Burlando, P. Molnar]

In order to satisfy the demand of the basin scale integrated hydrological models and of the local/point scale models (T 3.2 and 3.3), as well as some assessment carried out in WP3, the RCMs output require downscaling to the space-time scales suitable to drive these models. Depending on the basin size, the spatial scale can vary from the upper limit of 1´1 km to a few tens of meters, whereas the characteristic temporal scales are often sub-daily and hourly. Throughout the ACQWA project various methods are applied to further refine the results of the regional climate models operating on a 10 km grid to a 1 km grid or to the "point scale" (statistical methods), respectively: Further dynamical downscaling and a subgrid-scale land-surface model (ST 3.1.1), and statistical methods in T 3.4 for deriving local scale precipitation. In this Task both dynamic and statistical/stochastic downscaling methods will be collected and supplemented as described below to achieve the space-time resolution required by the models used in T 3.2.

The 10´10 km REMO experiments will be accordingly downscaled to force by means of a novel double nesting procedure. This will be achieved by using the REMO simulations to drive in a nested mode the non-hydrostatic RCM MM5 (Dudhia, 1993) with a target resolution of 3x3 km and 1x1 km. In this way, a physically consistent simulation of local scale climatic features, e.g., as triggering factors for local hydrological extremes and other hazards is possible and can be both linked to hydrological and process models of T 2.2 and 2.3, and used to perform direct analysis of extremes as described in T 2.4. The spatial resolution achieved by the double nesting scheme will allow also to test and improve the efficiency of statistical downscaling techniques that will be also used to define scenarios at the smallest scales required by the analysis.

While the dynamic downscaling will provide a spatial resolution of 1´1 km for shorter time periods, statistical and stochastic downscaling techniques will be applied to generate scenarios at the “point scale” (simulated station data) and with the purpose of producing multiple scenarios according to Monte Carlo methods. The spatial resolution achieved by dynamical downscaling will allow to cross-validate and to improve the efficiency of statistical techniques and will be also used to enhance spatial interpolation of point scale datasets.

A selection of (geo-) statistical and stochastic approaches will be accordingly explored following, e.g., Schmidli et al. (2006), Marzban et al. (2006), Goodess et al. (2006), Wackernagel (2003). Stochastic techniques based on nonlinear stochastic models (e.g. Burlando and Rosso, 1992; 2002a; b)will be particularly useful to investigate the effects of climate change on small scale temporal structure of precipitation which is poorly resolved by statistical techniques.

A special focus of ST 3.1.2 will be on evaluating the uncertainty associated with these fine-scale downscaling methods by analysing the ensemble of methods using probabilistic techniques (e.g., Déqué et al., 2007). The uncertainty component due to the driving RCM simulations at resolutions 10-25 km and originating from the choice of a specific model or a specific model setup will be additionally assessed via a comparison of all available RCM experiments of the respective scale.

Furthermore, ST 3.1.2 will exploit the multiple simulations of surface variables related to the hydrological cycle in climate models (T 3.1), hydrological models (T 3.2) and the biosphere model (ST 3.3.5 and 4.2.5) for cross-validation and uncertainty estimation of those variables.


Task 3.2: Distributed catchment response to scenarios (basin scale)

HWRM-ETHZ, Switzerland [P. Burlando, F. Pellicciotti, D. Molnar]; DIIAR-Hydrology, Politecnico di Milano, Italy [M. Mancini, G. Ravazzani]; UNIAQ- CETEMPS, Center of Excellence of the University of l’Aquila, Italy [B. Tomassetti]; International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy [E. Coppola]; ARPA Piemonte, Italy [D. Rabuffetti]

Task 3.2 is built around the implementation of three distributed hydrological models that will use the downscaled scenarios developed in ST 3.1.2 to simulate the response to CC scenarios at the catchment scale. The selected models are the TOPKAPI model (Todini and Ciarapica, 2001; Zhiyu and Todini, 2002; Liu et al, 2005), the FEST model (Mancini, 1990; Montaldo et al., 2004; Montaldo et al., 2007) and the CHyM. All of the models have the following characteristics: raster based (resolution dictated by DEM availability and catchment scale, approx. range 50 to 500 m grid size); physically based/oriented; continuous in time with hourly resolution; explicit in the soil/and component; internally consistent. They can account and produce distributed output scenarios for the following processes: snow and ice accumulation/melting, interception, evaporation/evapotranspiration, infiltration/soil moisture, streamflow, groundwater storage. Moreover, they can be easily coupled and/or interfaced with modules simulating the occurrence of shallow landslides/soil slips, surface erosion and sediment transport.

The three models will be used for general simulations of all the case studies, thus providing the possibility to run an intercomparison among the different approaches. Inputs to the models will be provided by the downscaled scenarios produced in ST 3.1.2. In addition, investigation of specific basin response issues will be addressed by single model applications on the basis of specific model specialization in simulating a given process. This will allow focusing on basin wide analysis of specific impact analyses, such as that of erosion and its interplay with evolving vegetation cover. The various model outputs will be available in form continuous hourly time series of streamflow, soil moisture, evaporation/evapotranspiration, etc., including extremes, which will be directly used or properly aggregated to provide the appropriate input for the impact analysis carried out in WP4. These outputs will additonally provide the basis to investigate by means of simplified approaches the impact of altered streamflow regimes on the recharge of river-fed groundwater systems.

A novel approach to account for the sub-grid variability at the basin scale will be implemented. This is particularly important for modelling of basin scales that require the use of a model raster size that cannot resolve properly in space the modifications induced by climatic change. This is for instance the case of glacier processes, of biosphere dynamics and hill slope stability. The hydrological models will be thus complemented by detailed and process oriented local models that will be developed in ST 3.3.1 to 3.3.4. Scaling-up techniques will be developed to nest the detailed models (or the results of their simulations) into the distributed model catchment scale, for instance by borrowing techniques already used for the nesting of climate models. Detailed models will be also used to simulate local specific scenarios.


Task 3.3: Sub-grid variability of the response (local/point scale)

This Task will develop models of the sub-grid variability of the response that will either be nested into the basin scale models or will provide to them an external input which is the result of refined modelling at space-time scales which are more appropriate to investigate the effect of climatic change on a given process. The sub-grid models will address the most sensitive compartments of the complex interaction between water, vegetation and landscape. Accordingly, local models will be developed to address the response of glaciers to climatic change induced enhanced melt forcing, the intra-annual and interannual modification of the snowpack evolution, the response of soil moisture dynamics, and the response of the vegetation systems. All of these compartments are directly influenced by climatic change and its effects on he hydrological cycle, and, in turn, affect water resources by means of feedback mechanisms. Other small scale investigations of processes that are less indirectly connected to changes in water resources are deliberately left out to favour a targeted work.

Subtask 3.3.1: Snow model

Météo-France / Centre d’Etudes de la Neige (CEN), Grenoble, France [Y. Durand]

The detailed understanding of how the snowpack seasonal evolution will be affected by CC is a key element to understand how different the accumulation and melting processes will occur over glaciers and, more in general, in mountainous areas. Modifications in the snowpack, such as accelerated aging, will eventually intensify the seasonal accumulation-ablation cycle thus enhancing the shift in water resources availability from winter snow storages, which are already endangered by a shift of snowfall towards liquid precipitation. The role of ST 3.3.1 is therefore to investigate what is the effect of CC on the modifications of the snowpack throughout the winter season by means of the physically based numerical model CROCUS (Brun et al., 1989 and 1992). This is a numerical snow model that calculates the evolution of the energy and mass balance of the snow cover. It uses only meteorological conditions and simulates the evolution of temperature, density, liquid water content and layering of the snow pack. The physical basis of the model allows to simulate snow metamorphism in near surface and deeper layers and to represent each snow type separately, thus providing snow albedo and extinction coefficients estimates that are derived throughout the season on the basis of the surface snow type, size and age.

The validation of the model will be based on simulations fed by the past and current climate baselines (T 2.2) and assessed by means of the remotely sensed data (T 2.3). The assessment of the snowpack evolution under CC fording will be carried out at the local/point scale using the downscaled RCMs scenarios (ST 3.1.2). The outputs will be both analysed at the local scale and used to drive accumulation and melt models used by detailed glacier mass balance models in ST 3.3.2 and by basin scale distributed models in T 3.2. Among others, this ST will provide to models used in ST 3.3.2 and T 2.2. CC dependent parameterizations of, e.g., snow density, albedo and roughness. This will allow to achieve more realistic glacier and basin scale snow- and ice-melt simulations with parsimonious models, that account for a dynamic parameterization, which captures process interactions and feedbacks with climate forcing.

A by-product of this modelling construct, which will be eventually addressed in the project is the improvement of the land surface schemes used presently by RCMs to account for the snow components.

Subtask 3.3.2: Model of glacier response to climatic change

HWRM-ETHZ, Switzerland [F. Pellicciotti, R. Dadic]; VAW-ETHZ [M. Funk, A. Bauder]; University of Dundee [B. Brock]; ARPA Valle d’Aosta, Italy [U. Morra di Cella, E. Cremonese]

The overall aim of this ST is to predict the changing magnitude and timing of water production from glacierized basins characterized by different morphological and ice features under CC at high resolution scales. This will be based on detailed studies at selected and characteristic glaciers, thereby including debris covered glaciers. The analysis carried out in this ST will provide, on the one hand, a detailed investigation of several exemplary glacier case studies, that will help to depict the likely impact of CC at the glacier scale (mass balance and retreat, water production) as a function of the glacier characteristics; on the other hand, the ST will provide a way to integrate the sub-grid variability into the glacier model components of the basin scale hydrological models (T 2.2), by means of techniques to scale up the local models and/or model results, which will be tested within the project.

Glacier candidates for this ST are: Haut Glacier d’Arolla, in the southern Swiss Alps, which is small alpine valley glacier that has been the object of extensive glaciological investigations in the past decades, including by the investigators (Strasser et al., 2004; Pellicciotti et al., 2005), thus offering an ideal case study for the abundance of meteorological and geophysical data collected; Gorner glacier, also in the southern Alps of Switzerland and close to Haut Glacier d’Arolla, which however experiences a distinct precipitation regime that affects the accumulation and summer melt process. The glacier is also a much bigger and complex glaciated system ranging a broad span of elevations and it is not entirely temperate, thus providing an optimal site to test models developed for smaller temperate glaciers (Kretzt et al, 2007); Aletsch glacier, in the Swiss Alps, where one of the longest time series of mass balance and runoff measurements exists, which can be therefore used as an ideal case study to test the model developed by the investigators to simulate the mass balance evolution (Huss et al., 2007); Tsa de la Tsa glacier, in the Italian Alps, where the investigators have been carrying out a pilot study to understand the effect of climatic changes on the melt regime and the water production from the glacier (Cremonese et al. 2007), which allowed us to test models transferability and their robustness in conditions of scarcity of some of the input data; Miage glacier, on the southern side of the Mont Blanc Massif, which is among the largest debris covered glaciers in the Alps and an excellent site for investigating the feedbacks between glacier retreat, expansion of debris covers and melt reduction due to debris cover. The investigators have established a meteorology and energy balance program at this site and are developing existing models of glacier melt to make them applicable to debris covered ice (Brock et al., in press); and Juncal Norte glacier, in the dry Andes of Chile, situated in a very different climatic settings, where precipitations are scarce and sublimation plays a crucial role in the glacier surface energy balance, and where the investigators have been conducting an extensive field campaign and interdisciplinary glaciological and hydrological project for the past two years (see for details Work package 5.3).

Existing glacier mass and energy balance models (Pellicciotti, 2004; Pellicciotti et al, 2005; Huss et al., 2007, Brock et al. 2000) will be used and adapted to the project according to the quality and resolution of input data. As the influence of CC on melt is directly connected to glacier retreat, the latter will be specifically investigated by coupling the mass balance with evolution models of the glacier morphology (both advanced, where data about the 3D structure of the glacier are available, and based on simple flow models, where no morphological data are available) to account for more realistic retreat response, and ultimately for more realistic response of melt to CC. This will require, among others, improvements to existing models that concern:

- the ablation modelling, that can be greatly improved in both accuracy and temporal/spatial resolution by incorporating parameterisations for incoming shortwave radiation and albedo, which do not require additional data, thus enhancing the model transferability for CC impact studies and for integration into the basin scale hydrological models;
- a dynamic parameterisation to account for snowpack morphological changes as induced by CC scenarios and simulated in ST 2.3.1, thus enabling to account, e.g., for variable snow density and surface roughness, as modified by the effect of CC throughout the scenario horizon;
- the incorporation of feedbacks between glacier response to climate change and mass balance in order to give realistic forecasts of future water production as glaciers shrink, thus considering

  • positive feedbacks, in the case of increased advection of heat and longwave radiation from bare rock slopes and decreased albedo during hot and drought conditions (e.g. summer 2003);
  • negative feedbacks, in the case of increased debris cover insulation and retreat of glaciers to higher/colder locations;
  • negative feedbacks due to decoupling of upper accumulation areas from lower debris covered ablation zones (e.g. Brenva glacier);

- the modelling of melt water outflow from glacier models, which will be routed using linear and/or nonlinear reservoirs models, which will be dynamically parameterized throughout the season, at a range of timescales and spatial resolutions dictated by the requirements of the detailed glacier modelling and of the need for integration into basin scale hydrological models (WP2.2).

The above models will be tested, before their use in scenario simulation, using the past and current baseline scenarios developed in T1.2 and, in addition, on recently analysed mass-balance time-series in seasonal resolution since 1865 that have been modelled for Alpine glaciers, based on in-situ observations of accumulation and melt, ice-volume changes determined by differential analysis of digital elevation models, and meteorological data (Huss et al., 2007).

Subtask 3.3.3: Impact of climate warming on the stability of hanging glaciers in the alps

VAW-ETHZ, Switzerland [M. Funk, M. Lüthi, A. Bauder]; Lab of Glaciologie, Grenoble, France [C. Vincent, D. Six, E. Le Meur], FONDMS, Italy (J.P. Fosson)

The analysis of ST 3.3.2 will highlight how the CC induced diffused glacier retreat will produce new areas at risk for icefalls or ice avalanches from hanging glaciers. Although relatively rare, these can pose severe threat to human settlement and infrastructures, thus impacting economic sectors such as hydropower and tourism, which often have their infrastructure in the vicinity of glaciers. Climate warming can affect the stability of hanging glaciers because the thermal conditions, especially at the glacier base, will be modified. Dangerous situations may arise on hanging glaciers if previous cold conditions at the glacier bed become temperate. In such a situation the stability of the whole glacier may be affected, because of sudden ongoing sliding conditions at the glacier base. As shown in recent studies, englacial temperatures at high altitude provide clear evidence of warming over the last two decades. Consequently, it is very important to survey and to model the englacial temperatures for hanging glaciers and to recognize under which conditions instability may occur, in order to enforce appropriate mitigation measures that minimize the impact of such a threat (ST 4.1.1 and 4.2.4).

This ST will therefore contribute to assess the stability conditions of hanging glaciers in the Rhone basin area, by combining the outcomes of the modelling done in ST 3.3.2 with the extrapolation of englacial temperatures based on local temperature scenarios. The rise of englacial temperatures over the last decades will be especially analyzed jointly with the baseline scenarios developed in T 2.2 to assess the plausibility of the numerical modelling for the evolution of the temperature field in these glaciers, before its application for the next decades. In this respect, links between the atmospheric variables of nearby stations at the selected glaciers (e.g. Taconnaz and Weisshorn in the Rhone basin and Grandes Jorasses in the Pô Basin) and the englacial temperatures will be investigated in order to develop a modelling strategy that can predict the evolution of hanging glaciers. The atmospheric warming can indeed have a major impact on the stability of hanging glaciers if their base becomes temperate (0°C). Depending on exposition and on ice advection, the cold ice is generally located above 3’500 m above sea level. At these altitudes, glaciers are frozen to their bed and no sliding occurs. As soon as they become temperate, major parts may be destabilized and large ice avalanches can be formed.

Subtask 3.3.4: Soil moisture dynamics using SVAT models and remote-sensing information

DIIAR-Hydrology, Politecnico di Milano, Italy [M. Mancini, G. Ravazzani]

Most of the avaliable studies on the effects of CC predict significant changes of soil moisture. However, very little has been investigated with respect to the variability of such dynamics at the small scale. Because very often in mountainous regions the management scale is small and the heterogeneity of the landscape, vegetation cover and agricultural activities is high, the project will address the small scale variability of the land-atmosphere interactions for a number of different environments, which are typically found in mountain areas. These play a crucial role in controlling, in a direct or indirect way, the hydrological physical processes and the consequent impact on the water resource (Lelieveld et al., 2002) and need to be investigated at small spatial scales (sub-grid/sub-pixel of basin distributed models grid, T 2.2) in order to understand what is the level of complexity of the mathematical representation that has to retained at the grid scale of distributed hydrological models (and at coarser scales, such as in RCMs) as function of the heterogeneity of the cover and its associated response.

These investigations will be carried out by means of Land Surface Models (LSMs) which resolve the mass and energy fluxes at high (spatial and temporal) resolution by solving mass and energy balance equations (e. g., Famiglietti and Wood, 1994; Wigmosta et al., 1994; Albertson and Kiely, 2001; Montaldo and Albertson, 2001). This Subtask will explore the effect of spatial variability of vegetation cover, topography, soil properties on the main mass fluxes at small scales with the purpose of identifying the principal and secondary frequencies of the dynamics of mass fluxes in relation to scale variation and system status. Due to the crucial role played by the vegetation cover on the definition of energy and mass fluxes, this Subtask will develop investigations jointly with ST 2.3.5 (Biosphere modelling), in order to account for appropriate description and/or parameterisation of the vegetation types in the LSM model and (Detto et al . 2006). Output of this analysis will be then used to identify the most appropriate modelling scheme for upscaling to the grid size of the distributed hydrological basin scale models (T 2.2), and for robust simulations at the local scale under CC forcing (Montaldo et al , 2005). Validation of the modelling scheme(s) prior to the application will be done using both ground data and high resolution satellite images, which will be processed in collaboration with T 1.3.

Subtask 3.3.5 Biosphere Model

Forest Ecology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland [A. Wolf, H. Bugmann]

An essential role in the hydrological cycle is played by the vegetation cover. The biosphere is highly important for regional climate and regional hydrology, but feedbacks mechanisms between the hydrological cycle and the biosphere have been generally simplified strongly in previous studies. The project recognises such role and aims at improving the description of the water-vegetation interactions by addressing it in this ST through an appropriate modelling framework (LPJ-GUESS, Smith et al., 2001). This makes use of physiologically based representations of plant-level carbon and water fluxes, to estimate the allocation of assimilated carbon within the plant, and long-term dynamic changes in species distributions. Particularly important is to estimate the variability and the uncertainty of the changes at different space and time scales. To this purpose, the LPJ-GUESS model will be used jointly or coupled with three different types of models running at three different space-time scales, namely RCMs (ST 3.1.1), basin scale hydrological models (T 3.2) and subgrid LSM models (ST 3.3.4). Specifically, the plan is to formulate different parameterisations of LPJ-GUESS to match the levels of detail which are consistent with the partner models. This will enable to account for the highest scale-dependent detail of the biosphere dynamic response to CC, thus highlighting the differences among the various time and space scales, ideally from the individual plant or plant community to the regional scale. The ST will assess the resulting differences in ecosystem carbon and water fluxes, focusing on intra-annual variations, and providing surface variables for runs at different resolutions.

A special attention will be paid at feedback mechanisms. This will be done by assessing the importance of long-term changes in vegetation cover and distribution for the climate predictions by means of a bi-directional coupling with the RCM REMO (ST 3.1.1). In the coupled system a number of the climate model’s land surface parameters will be updated regularly to track the vegetation changes simulated by LPJ-GUESS. In a simpler approach, one RCM climate change scenario will be re-run for comparison purposes, assuming modified land surface characteristics as projected by LPJ-GUESS. In both cases the investigation of feedback mechanisms involved in biosphere-atmosphere exchange processes and their influence on climate change projections is possible.

A similar approach will be used to couple the biosphere model with the hydrological models (T 3.2) and the LSM (ST 3.3.4). The coupling will be scale-dependent and will address primarily the feedback between the soil moisture dynamics and the vegetation responses at the scale used by the basin hydrological model and how this is influenced by the more detailed representation of vegetation transpiration processes in the biosphere model. Additionally, we will investigate how the forest cover and expected changes in forest cover, including afforestation and deforestation (all analyzed in ST 4.2.4) will influence the basin hydrology, e.g. the soil moisture dynamics (T 3.2, ST 3.3.4).


Task 3.4: Extremes and hazards

The Summary for Policy Makers of the IPCC 4th Assessment Report (IPCC, 2007) indicates as likely to very likely the increase of the frequency of the extremes based on GCMs simulations. Because extremes are very often occurring at the basin or local scales and trigger hazards that are localized in space, the ACQWA project plans a dedicated Task to the analysis of the extremes as simulated under the CC forcing by the RCMs and the basin hydrological models, thereby including the detailed analysis of some of the relevant impacting hazards. The outputs of tasks 3.1 (climate scenarios) and 3.2 (catchment response) consist of time series of hydrological variables that will be comprehensively analysed in the frequency domain. Changes in the occurrence of events and in their intensity will be quantified both representing them in the form of traditional analysis based on return period concepts, and investigating them within the context of non-stationary analysis. Modifications of the internal structure of storm rainfall events will be also addressed thus quantifying not only the changes in the mean process, but also identifying the changes to intensity and temporal occurrences that lead to higher variability. More specifically, ST 3.4.1 will implement a frequency analysis of the hydrological extremes and their associated uncertainty, comparing the differences between the recent past and the near future. ST 3.4.2 will address the role of specific atmospheric circulation as main driving mechanisms of extreme precipitation events. Finally, ST 3.4.3 will investigate the consequences of an increased frequency of extreme events on triggering geomorphologic hazards, such as erosion, soil slips and debris flows. All these events can have an impact on sediment loading in rivers that in turn can lead to damage to infrastructure (bridges, dams, riverside communication routes, etc.) located in the watershed.

Subtask 3.4.1: Analysis of extreme

Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE-CEA), Gif-sur-Yvette, France [P. Naveau]; Universität für Bodenkultur, Vienna, Austria [H. Formeyer]; University of Bern [J. Luterbacher]

ST 3.4.1 will focus on a frequency analysis of the hydrological extremes observed in the recent past as compared with those simulated by models at different space and time resolutions when forced with CC scenarios (T 3.1, ST 3.1.2, T 3.2). The most significant hydrological variables, such as temperature, storm rainfall intensities, peak flows, dry spells, and other relevant variables, such as erosion rates, sediment yields, will be investigated (i) to estimate the CC induced modifications of their distributional properties and of the related event intensities and/or magnitudes; (ii) to assess the associated uncertainties by analysing both the historical observations and the generated values; and (iii) to quantify the dependence between their space scales and variability and the intensities of the events. These investigations will be carried out on both the RCM and the basin hydrological model simulations, also addressing the effect of the different downscaling techniques on the spatial variability of the occurrences of extremes. The analysis will be carried out at different temporal scales, using both daily, sub-daily and event variables. Given the non stationary nature of the simulated extremes, appropriate statistical techniques will be selected. Attention will be finally paid at estimating the dependence of the extreme events and their spatial extent and intensity on specific large and mesoscale circulation patterns and on their severity.

Subtask 3.4.2: Mediterranean cyclones and their contribution to mountain hydrology

Universität für Bodenkunde, Vienna, Austria [H. Formayer]

Mediterranean cyclones are one of the most important sources for heavy precipitation events in many parts of the Alps. The flood events in May 1999 and August 2005 in parts of Switzerland, Germany and Austria have been caused by a cutoff lows at the 500 hPa pressure level centred over the Alps and northern Italy, transporting Mediterranean air masses counterclockwise around the Alps to the north side. The role of this cyclonic circulation in a changed climate has not yet been extensively investigated. Subtask 2.4.2 aims at assessing whether RCMs simulations (T 2.1) are capable of reproducing the extreme events of cyclones of Mediterranean origin. This will be done forcing RCM runs with ERA40 dataset (T 1.2) and comparing with historical observations at daily time scale (T 1.2). The analysis will concentrate on specific assessment of the extreme events regime, such as comparing the frequency of occurrence, their intensity, the temporal and spatial shifts, the duration and trajectories. Tools will be specifically designed for an objective analysis. Once the RCMs performance assessment is carried out, ST 2.4.2 will analyse precipitation scenarios as simulated by RCMs with specific reference to the heavy precipitation events originating from Mediterranean cyclones and with focus on the estimation of the prediction bias.

Subtask 3.4.3: Hydrologically-relevant geomorphologic hazards

University of Geneva, Switzerland [M. Stoffel]; CNRS (LGP), Bellevue, France [V. Jomelli]; HWRM-ETHZ, Switzerland [P. Burlando, F. Pellicciotti]

One of the major CC impacts claimed in several studies (e.g. Jomelli et al., 2004, 2007; Goudie, 2006; Stoffel et al., 2007) concerns the increase of water driven hazards of geomorphological nature, such as shallow landslides and soil slips, debris- and mudflows, rockfalls, among others (Milly et al., 2002; Stoffel & Beniston, 2006; Stoffel et al., 2005a, b; Perret et al., 2006). This is essentially due to the expected increase in precipitation extremes (in this project analysed in ST 2.4.1), which in turn may enhance erosion and soil degradation, and to the expected temperature increases that in cryosphere environments will lead to an acceleration of glacier retreat and permafrost degradation. Already in the recent years there is evidence of these types of natural hazards claiming hundreds of lives and millions of Euros in lost property in the European Alps and of impacts of intense precipitation event often reaching far beyond the Alps themselves and affecting by severe flooding of populated lowlands (Beniston, 2006). The results of this investigation will be of importance to evaluate the impact on economical activities of mountain societies (tackled in WP4), as population growth and increasing demand for summer and winter tourism activities will not only enhance the pressure on land use, but also augment the vulnerability of residents or tourists and infrastructure in sensitive environments (Bloetzer et al., 1998).

ST 2.4.3 will accordingly address the assessment of how the current mechanisms and triggers of geomorphological hazards may evolve in a future and changed climate. Specifically, this ST will investigate changes in the number and the severity of these events, in their seasonality, and in their spatial variability. The latter aspect is particularly important in view of the impact analysis, as the potential expansion of the areas at risk will require the implementation of new protection and mitigation strategies (such as the traditional hazard maps and the zonation policies) that account for non-stationarity in minimizing the economic and societal impacts of events over the next decades.

The analysis will be carried out following Stoffel & Beniston (2006) and Stoffel et al. (2007) on the basis of the RCMs predictions at regional scales available from ST 2.1.1 with special focus especially the spatial distribution of the changes and the overall changes of regional proneness. More detailed analysis will be carried out on the basis of simulations caried out by distributed hydrological models. These will provide, on the one hand, the boundary conditions (e.g. sediment supply and catchment wetness) to analyse at pilot sites the changes in frequency and intensities of debris flows; on the other hand, they will be coupled to dedicated soil slip models (e.g. Iverson, 2000) to investigate at a smaller scale the changes of the frequency and temporal evolution of soil slips, the latter aspect being particularly important to understand the role of warning systems in a future climate.

More Articles...